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Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude Paperback – August 10, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


“Neal Pollack has a well documented history of putting himself into ridiculous positions, but never so literally… If Eat, Pray, Love had been written by a sweaty, aging, male smartass, then that book might be called Stretch, and Elizabeth Gilbert would be named Neal Pollack.” (—John Hodgman)

“[Neal Pollack is] a yoga bad boy, a bong-hitting carnivore with a taste for laughter…a highly entertaining guide as he investigates the good, bad and ugly of the yoga spectrum…Both sincere and subversive, Pollack will likely inspire more than one reader to commit to yoga.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Touching as well as funny...Ultimately, Pollack lampoons himself more than the culture, and this is perhaps the most compelling evidence of Pollack’s conversion: his inability to be snarky about yoga.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

From the Back Cover

The hilarious true account of an overweight, balding, skeptical guy's unexpected transformation into a healthy, blissful yoga fiend.

Neal Pollack was out of shape. The hair on his head was thinning and the hair on his face was pretentious—traits a New York Times critic gleefully pointed out while panning his second book. Combined with the predestined failure of his punk rock band, it was almost too much for Pollack to bear. He was willing to try anything to get his life back on track . . . even yoga.

While struggling to master difficult poses without kicking other yogis in the face, Pollack actually, remarkably, began to feel better, both in body and mind. Soon he found himself immersed in the "weird and circuslike" world of yoga. He participated in a 24-hour yogathon, attended yoga conferences and Asian retreats, went to yoga rock shows, started getting regular assignments for Yoga Journal magazine, and, finally, began teaching yoga classes himself.

Stretch mercilessly lampoons the bizarre, omnipresent culture of yoga, but it's also a story of profound personal transformation. Pollack started off mocking yoga. Now he's become one of its most enthusiastic proponents.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (August 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061727695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061727696
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Neal Pollack (born March 1, 1970) is an American satirist, novelist, short story writer, and journalist. A contributor to every English-language publication except for The New Yorker, Pollack has written ten semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction: The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, Never Mind the Pollacks, Beneath the Axis of Evil, Alternadad, Stretch, Jewball, Downward-Facing Death, Open Your Heart, Repeat, and Keep Mars Weird. He lives in Austin, Texas, seemingly against his will.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Dag Nabbit on August 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
Yes, there is a lot about yoga in this book and Pollack's journey through yoga is the story, but this book is really about a a guy who is on the verge of a full-blown midlife crisis and attempts to deal with it by re-discovering his "best self." Pollack pulls this off by avoiding sentimentality and self-pity - his wit and humor is sharp and hits the target. It is clear that Pollack is not a wild-eyed yoga zealot, he finds yoga teachers and methods that speak to him, but he also pulls no punches when it comes to some of the more cynical yoga-marketing schemes (the "yoga championship" section is really a marvel). I found myself for-real laughing out loud whenever I picked up the book.

As someone around Pollack's age (and not that into yoga), his journey resonated with me this book resonated with me. Yes, I went to some yoga classes after reading the book, but more importantly it served as a reminder to try to find my own "best self" and not take myself so damn seriously.

Highly recommended.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 8, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had hoped to like this book as much as I had liked the bit if it which was published in Yoga Journal.
I did like his rather snarky sense of humor, but I was totally turned off by how selfish and inconsiderate he was to his wife and son. If my husband ever invited two young women to stay overnight at our house, and then went on a "road trip" with them, he would not be my husband for long ! Ditto leaving me at home and spending a week at a Yoga retreat in Thailand.
He almost comes across at times like the inappropriate Yoga Dude who uses Yoga as a means to hang out with hot women - he spends more time with them than with his family.
Sorry, but Neal simply comes across as childish, self absorbed, selfish, and unprofessional. Aside from his near - hero worship of Richard Freeman, he was pretty disrespectful. Last, but not least, he seems to have completely missed the entire point of Yoga, self control, compassion, non-harming, and sense control.
He was rude to those around him, he constantly re-injured his back (listen to your body, non-harming includes yourself), and spent most of his time either stoned or drunk. It seems the poor man is still lost in the 60's.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By James D. Moyer on September 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Neal Pollack's humor tends toward the snarky, with a very sharp eye for the foibles of contemporary culture. After getting trashed by a New York Times book review for looking doughy and having thinning hair, he experiences a bit of personal crisis. He's no Saint Augustine, and the depths of his angst are toward the shallow end of the pool. He starts doing yoga at a 24 hour fitness center, and discovers that he likes it and it seems to do something a bit more worthwhile than tone his abs. He begins to suspect that yoga might help him reconnect with his best self, an entity which he hasn't seen since his less sophisticated youth, before becoming an edgy writer.

Along the way, he explores many of the wacky and creative versions of yoga in the United States, including an overly severe vegan style in New York, and yoga rave music. He settles on a more traditional school, ashtanga, and eventually studies with a serious, renowned teacher overseas. His humor is often funniest, though, when it's turned on himself, including some silly but entertaining sessions with a chiropractor, problems with barfing, and the mandatory flatulence-at-yoga scene.

Pollack has a keen eye for the American yoga scene and understands well the different schools of yoga study and practice. We root for him as he stumbles on his enlightenment road, although he never seems to recognize that doing marijuana through a vaporizer is probably not auspicious practice. Namaste, Neal.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By dfranklin on May 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
I picked this up while waiting for my wife to finish her yoga class and non-yoga me was dying of boredom amidst the fuppery. It definitely made the time go faster and more enjoyably. It's funny, but not laugh-out-loud funny, and it's well-written, but not exemplary. I'd give it 3.5 stars but since you can't do that, 4 is fairer since 3 seems to be panning it. I guess I can't relate because pot does not plug my wound. It made me think about a book called Muscle by a guy named Fussell (unlikely as that may seem), it's in a similar vein of high dive into the deep end of a niche activity, but Muscle was completely riveting, even with even less ability on my part to relate. If you're going to pick up one of these, go for Muscle, unless you have an interest in the world of yoga.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Swindler on February 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
I got into yoga about six years ago at the gym where I was a member. I loved it. It was fantastic. Being a soccer player all my life, yoga was a great alternative and made me feel better, and made me a better soccer player. The classes were difficult at first, but I continued and persevered. As the class progressed I got better and challenged myself. Then the class changed. It turned more into a beginner class that was like Groundhog Day. Each class was full of beginners and we did the same things over and over and nothing seemed to progress. Then my life changed. My wife and I started a family, I quit the gym, and basically lost all my free time. I abandoned yoga.

Lately I had been looking to get back into yoga. I never felt better than when I was practicing 3-4 days a week. I found a studio near my house that was reasonably priced and I checked it out. I immediately loved the community, but I couldn't figure out how to reconcile all the new age aspects of the studio. I wasn't into chanting, veganism, or all-encompassing peace. The peace part is nice, but I'm too busy to give that my full attention. From my first class at the new studio I was hooked again. I love yoga. But I didn't know what to do with the other stuff that the studio preached. Then one day I was recommended Stretch by Neal Pollack. This book is fantastic. The humor is wonderful, the irreverence it perfect, and the overall story is inspiring. I didn't need this book to help me reconcile my thoughts about my new yoga community, but it was wonderful to hear someone else basically talk about my same thoughts and feelings. Yoga is wonderful, but there are aspects of it that have been taken over by the odd and overly commercial villains in this world. Mr.
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